Close Up

11 March 2017: Portrait of Jason


Portrait of Jason
Shirley Clarke
1967 | 105 min | B/W | Digital

"Playing the role of Jason Holliday on film and in life, Aaron Payne presents himself to Shirley Clarke and her crew doing what he wants to be doing: performing. In the spirit of Andy Warhol’s screen tests and his Poor Little Rich Girl, Clarke filmed the theatrical hustler in her apartment with one camera over a twelve-hour period. Even with all obvious cinematic artifice stripped away – as Clarke demonstrated earlier in The Connection – naturalism and confession prove to be alternative protective masks. As a black, gay hustler with deferred dreams, Jason represents multiple strata of marginalization, and Clarke offers this outsider persona feature-length center stage. Jason’s entertaining, anecdotal, emotional roller coaster ride reveals as much about the shadow side of American society as it is its flamboyant spokesperson. Off-screen, Clarke and her partner Carl Lee approach the roles of the prodding director and his cameraman from The Connection, as they attempt to wrangle emotional truth from their subject whose tears and laughter remain painfully layered and enigmatic. Pointing to film’s strange powers of psychological mediation, Clarke later revealed that viewing and editing the film changed her position toward her subject from amused and annoyed to fascinated and empathetic." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our retrospective on Shirley Clarke, generously supported by Milestone Films: